The following was originally published in the New York Times in 1967:
U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror
by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.
According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.
....A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam. The election was the culmination of a constitutional development that began in January, 1966, to which President Johnson gave his personal commitment when he met Premier Ky and General Thieu, the chief of state, in Honolulu in February.
The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government, which has been founded only on coups and power plays since November, 1963, when President Ngo Dinh Deim was overthrown by a military junta.
Ok, so I have avoided making any commentary on politics for a while and I imagine many of you are thankful this; however, I cannot bite my tongue on this one. I think one thing that people actively dislike about the Bush administration is their inability to acknowledge the grayness of situations and instead prefer to speak in black and white terms that are plainly half truths to anyone not tuned into Fox News. I imagine in small part this policy on the Bush Administration may stem from the fact that much of the cabinent members are former "Cold Warriors" that spent much of their early career engaged in a very different type of foriegn policy where, "communism is bad," and no further consideration was needed. Apparently Rice was actually one of the analysts that continued to say until the end that the Soviet Union would only fold given continued pressure from the west and that an internal collapse of the Soviet communism was unlikely- and we all know how that one turned out.
This is not to make a smear on the Bushie's though. Senator Edward Kennedy and his cohorts, the liberal old guard of the senate, recently have violently attacked the track record of the Iraqi invasion and pretty much damned it as an abysmal failure, which frankly I cannot entirely agree with either. To argue that Saddam was a cool guy who was just misunderstood because the whole olive drab and beret look had gone out of style is totally ridiculous. Saddam was obviously a pretty evil dictator and I cannot say I dissaprove of his being toppled by our military.
What I DO dissaprove is the seeming ignorance of history. One of my favorite movies is Lawrence of Arabia, starring Peter O'Toole, which prompted me to read at least one biography of the real T.E. Lawrence. More interesting than Lawrence's life is the history of the middle eastern region in the late 19th and 20th centuries. The reality is that their has been tremendous turmoil between ethnic, religious, and political factions there that have prevented open and democratic style governments from being established there and I am not even including Israel in the stew. My dad always said, "You can't legislate love," which seems an apt phrase for the situation in Iraq. You cannot just hold elections and expect that to change hundreds of years of conflict and turmoil and sit back and wait for the Iraqi's to suddenly see the beauty of American philosophy, open up a couple Starbucks and a Williams Sonama, and become another peaceful middle class outpost of our empire.